Sixpence None the Richer – There She Goes
by Jay S. Jacobs
Originally posted on June 14, 1999.
Sixpence None the Richer are just one of a long, storied tradition in music– the overnight sensation that had been toiling away in obscurity on the sidelines for years. Sixpence – which is made up of singer Leigh Nash, guitarist/songwriter Matt Slocum and drummer Dale Baker, – had recorded three albums (The Fatherless & The Widow, This Beautiful Mess and Tickets For A Prayer Wheel) that had been popular in the Christian rock community, but had not crossed over to a secular audience. That all changed in early 1999, when almost two years after the single “Kiss Me” was released, it was tapped as the theme of the comedy She’s All That and became the catchiest single to inundate the summer airwaves. The follow-up single, a remake of the La’s 1991 pop classic “There She Goes,” and the band’s self-titled album have also stormed the charts.
Lead singer Leigh Nash sat down with us to talk about the whirlwind ride that she’s been on lately.
How did you first decide you wanted to become a singer?
Well, I was listening to old country music. I was inspired by singers like Tammy Wynette and Patsy Kline and Crystal Gayle.
How did you hook up with Sixpence?
Matt and I grew up in the same town. We have been together for about eight years. Matt had just written his first song and he heard me sing – either in church or school or something. He liked my voice and he’d written a song, so we started a band.
I don’t usually ask about band names, but Sixpence None The Richer is a really unusual one. I heard that it was from C.S. Lewis, but I’m not familiar with the reference. What is it from?
It’s from a book called Mere Christianity and there’s a story where a child asks his father for a sixpence to buy his father a gift. The father gives the son the money and is happy with the gift that he gets. But he realizes that he’s not any richer, because he gave the child the money in the first place. So C.S. Lewis is comparing that to his belief that God gave us the gift that we have. And that’s to serve in the way that we should. We should be humble about it and know where the gifts came from.
Your album built kind of slowly and then exploded. Did it surprise you that “Kiss Me” became a hit a year after it was released?
Yeah, it was released in ’97, so it has taken a really long time for it to go anywhere, but we have just been working really, really hard. Sometimes it just takes things a while to catch on.
I love “Kiss Me,” but I’m not sure it’s totally representative of the band’s sound. Do you find people hear the one song and then are expecting different things from the band?
Yeah, they do. But there’s not really any one song on the album that would have crossed all that territory. So, yeah, it doesn’t represent the band’s sound, but hopefully in a career they’re the singles that will represent the sound.
I saw that Matt said the album was not so much a collection of songs but one long story. What do feel the story you’re trying to tell is?
Well, it was just… we went from being on a small independent label out of Nashville and ran into some legal difficulties and weren’t able to record for a couple of years. So this album is just dealing with those emotions and things we went through in that time where we weren’t able to record. So, it’s just sort of that story.
One of the cool things about your album is you see the need for a melody. A lot of bands feel like it is a sell-out to have a tune. Why do you think that pop songcraft is making such a big comeback?
I don’t know why that is. But I think that it’s very important – the lyric and melody are just the essence of the song. I love a really nice melody. Yes, I’m not sure why that is. Probably people just get sick of monotony. It’s nice to have things broken up.
Another good thing about the album is that while you are not afraid to discuss spiritual matters, like on “We Have Forgotten” or “The Lines of My Earth” or “Love,” you do not hit people over the head with it. It’s kind of nice because a lot of bands are singing about how miserable the world is. How do you find people react to your message?
Yeah. Some people know where it comes from. We’re all Christians in the band. So if you already know that, it makes a little more sense about why our perspective is such. But the people who aren’t aware of that or don’t agree with our faith sometimes are still just as refreshed, and think it’s just as nice. A change. Because it’s positive. Or, there’s kind of a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. So, people are generally really encouraged and enlightened by the music. It’s a good thing. We’re happy about that.
Another good song I thought was “Puedo Escribir” where you took a poem by Pablo Neruda and put music to it. How did you come up with that idea?
Matt is a really big fan of this movie, Il Postino, about Pablo Neruda’s life. He kind of became intrigued by Pablo Neruda and got a couple of his poetry books and found that particular poem, ‘Puedo Escribir’ and put it to music.
I know Matt writes most of the songs, but you did “Easy To Ignore.” I remember when I was in college one of my professors told me that when you feel inspiration, you should lie down and wait for it to go away. I always thought that was a horrible attitude. What are your feelings on inspiration? Does it drive your songwriting and performing?
Yeah, it is. Oh, definitely. Absolutely. I don’t write near as much as Matt does, but I think inspiration is a wonderful thing. To be inspired… And there’s so many things to be inspired by. Shutting yourself off from it… you’d be living a sterile existence.
The new single is a remake of the La’s “There She Goes.” Why did you decide to do that song?
We were fans of the La’s. And we liked the song “There She Goes” a lot. We’ve been playing it live for about a year and a half. The label encouraged us after a while to go ahead and record it. It was just striking a chord with a lot of people in our live performances. So we went in and recorded it, and it came out really well, so we decided it would be our second single.